Catholics here have been praying for this day

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, January 30, 2011

Students at Pope John Paul II School in Chicago got the answer to a prayer when they learned that the late pope was to be beatified on May 1 — actually, the answer to many prayers.

“We’ve been praying for his beatification at our school Masses every Thursday since 2005,” said Moira Benton, the school’s principal.

The students learned of the impending beatification at Mass on Jan. 13, Benton said.

The school is a ministry of four South Side parishes: Immaculate Conception (44th Street), Our Lady of Fatima, St. Pancratius and Five Holy Martyrs, where Pope John Paul celebrated Mass during his October 1979 visit to Chicago.

The outdoor altar John Paul II used to celebrate that Mass is still there and is used to celebrate a Mass in memory of the pope’s visit every October, said Richard Staron, a parishioner and chairman of the parish’s Pope John Paul II centrum committee. It will most likely be used this spring for a special Mass in honor of his beatification, he said.

The parish, like the school, has prayed for the beatification every week and will continue to pray for Pope John Paul II’s canonization, Staron said.

“I was so pleased and excited when the news about the beatification was announced,” he said. “We have been waiting for this day for four years. Back in 1979, as a grade school student at Five Holy Martyrs I recall going for a walk around the parish grounds with my father the night before Pope John Paul II arrived. I was so impressed with the amount of people that came and spent the night outside waiting for his arrival. I knew this was a special man that was coming to visit us.”

More relics of Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit are in use at the John Paul II Newman Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The center’s chapel incorporates furnishings from the pope’s Grant Park Mass, including the presider’s chair and ambo, said Father Patrick Marshall, the center’s director. The building’s foundation stone was taken from the altar used at the Grant Park Mass.

The late pope gave his permission for the center to be named in his honor while he was in Chicago, Marshall said.

“We’re doubly blessed this year with the beatification of both of our patrons,” said Marshall, who travelled to England for Cardinal John Henry Newman’s beatification in September. He would like to attend Pope John Paul II’s beatification, he said, but doesn’t yet know if he will be able to make the trip.

Cardinal Newman’s beatification seemed to stir more interest among faculty, who took it as an opportunity to study and discuss his writings, Marshall said, while the university’s students seem to feel a closer connection with Pope John Paul II.

“These kids mainly grew up with Pope John Paul II, they spent their formative years with John Paul II,” he said. “Our ministry focuses so much on the works of John Paul II, his evangelization and ministry — especially on his theology of the body.”

Pope John Paul II’s dedication to eucharistic adoration spurred the creation of the Pope John Paul II Eucharistic Adoration Association, said Ciel Brieske, its president.

The association, which was formed in 1998, encourages the creation of adoration chapels and time for eucharistic adoration in parishes.

“It really wasn’t something that was thought about before him,” she said.

The association has a monstrance that was blessed by Pope John Paul II shortly before his death. It will likely be used at a special Holy Hour in honor of the beatification, she said.

While the honor of beatification pleased the members greatly, they had confidence that it was coming, and soon, Brieske said.

“It was a ‘wow’ moment for us,” she said. “But it was almost as if it was expected.”